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Magic Johnson: Former Pelicans GM Dell Demps leaked Anthony Davis trade-talk details

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The Pelicans reportedly blame the Lakers for details of Anthony Davis trade negotiations leaking.

Former Lakers president Magic Johnson blames former Pelicans general manager Dell Demps.

Johnson on ESPN:

I told Dell Demps, “Let’s just do it in private. What we offer, let’s keep it between us.” Well, Dell didn’t do that. So, that’s how it got out.”

The Lakers have intriguing assets – Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, the No. 4 pick, all their own future first-round picks. Los Angeles will likely try again to land Davis.

Johnson and Demps are out. So, maybe these sour grapes don’t matter.

But enough people remain in each organization – including Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka, whom Johnson blasted today – from those winter trade talks. Whether or not there’s an edict in New Orleans forbidding new lead executive David Griffin from sending Davis to the Lakers, there’s clearly mistrust between these franchises. That makes it harder to reach a deal.

Report: Pelicans owner Gayle Benson would trade Anthony Davis to Lakers ‘over my dead body’

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Update: Gayle Benson denied this.

 

The Pelicans reportedly completely opposed trading Anthony Davis to the Lakers, his preferred destination.

But that was before New Orleans hired David Griffin to run the front office.

It wasn’t totally clear who within the Pelicans was against even considering a Lakers offer and whether that person/those people still hold power. Former New Orleans general manager Dell Demps appeared to have a strained relationship with Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka. Mickey Loomis, an executive who oversaw both the Pelicans and Saints, came up in football. With a background in a sport where players have far less power, he might have dug in his heels about Davis getting his way.

But Pelicans owner Gayle Benson fired Demps and said the new lead executive would report directly to her, not to Loomis.

So, will anyone left in New Orleans stop a trade of Davis to the Lakers?

Jackie MacMullan of ESPN:

We have been told, I think, through channels – most of us have heard this same scuttlebutt – that Gayle Benson has basically told him, “To the Lakers, over my dead body.”

If this is how Benson feels, she’s making a mistake. If trading Davis, the Pelicans should take the best offer they can get – no matter which team makes it.

That might be the Lakers, who can send some combination of Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and the No. 4 pick. Other teams – looking at you, Celtics – have better assets. But it’s unclear which of those assets will be on the table.

If the Lakers make what he deems to be the best offer, Griffin has the responsibility of convincing Benson to approve it. It’s tough to predict his likelihood of success, considering we don’t know precisely why she’s so against trading Davis to Los Angeles.

Does she just not want Davis to get his way? Does she resent how Davis and his agent Rich Paul, who also represents Lakers superstar LeBron James, handled this situation? Does she envy the Lakers’ big market and all the advantages that affords them (like becoming Davis’ preferred destination)? Something else entirely?

Before trying to convince Benson, Griffin is still tryingand so far failing – to convince Davis to stay. Only if that fails will he then work on Benson.

And of course only if the Lakers make the best offer.

Report: Lakers have no plans to replace Magic Johnson, who’ll still help team recruit FAs

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Magic Johnson’s stunning resignation as Lakers president caused a commotion.

It didn’t create a power vacuum.

Rob Pelinka is clearly in charge. He’s the highest-ranking member of the front office. His title – general manager – is the one many teams give to the leader of their basketball operations. He’s running the Lakers’ coaching search.

Though they’ve been linked to big-name candidates for president, the Lakers could easily keep the status quo with Pelinka running the show. And it sounds as if that’s what Lakers owner Jeanie Buss will do.

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times:

Buss has no plans to hire someone to replace Johnson, who is still expected to be part of the Lakers’ free-agent recruiting this summer.

Allowing Pelinka to hire a head coach – which, again, he’s in the process of doing – then supplanting him would be absurd. At least it seems the Lakers aren’t doing that.

But Pelinka was part of the organization while it made a comedy of errors. The former agent also had front-office experience until getting hired with Johnson a couple years ago. It’s hard to believe he’s the right choice to lead the team as it enters this critical stage.

LeBron James is 34. The Lakers will have max cap space this summer. Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart are progressing toward establishing clearer value – one way or the other.

To entrust Pelinka in this situation, Buss ought to have a clear explanation for why Pelinka doesn’t deserve a fair share of blame for all the mistakes that occurred the last couple years. There are plenty of people, inside and outside the Lakers, who question him.

The wildest part about this report: Johnson still helping the Lakers recruit this summer. He’s an all-time great player and charismatic. But he also just said while resigning:

What I didn’t like is the backstabbing, the whispering. I don’t like that. I don’t like a lot of things that went on that didn’t have to go on.

How will he sell that to free agents – especially if Pelinka, suspected to be whom Johnson is referring to, remains in charge?

Luke Walton out as Lakers coach

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Just a handful of days after Magic Johnson abruptly stepped down as the head of Lakers’ basketball operations — in part because he was not comfortable firing the coach — the Lakers and coach Luke Walton have mutually agreed to part ways, according to the team.

Walton was fired would be a more accurate description. With Magic gone, there was uncertainty around the organization and the perception that Walton would not be let go quickly. However, GM Rob Pelinka is running the show and he was not in Walton’s corner. Walton could read the writing on the wall, he didn’t have the full weight and backing of LeBron James — LeBron’s exit interview was with Magic and GM Rob Pelinka, not Walton — he was never Pelinka’s guy, and Walton knew what was coming.

“We would like to thank Luke for his dedicated service over the last three years,” Pelinka said in a statement released by the team. “We wish Luke and his family the best of luck moving forward.”

“I want to thank Jeanie Buss and the Buss family for giving me the opportunity to coach the Lakers,” Walton said in the same statement. “This franchise and the city will always be special to me and my family.”

Notice Walton thanked the Buss family and nobody else. Not Magic, not Pelinka, nobody.

Walton was 98-148 in three years as the Lakers coach, but that was seen as respectable considering he was handed a young team that was not going to win much. In his second season, the younger Lakers — Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma — showed development and the team played surprisingly good defense. However, when the Lakers got LeBron this summer the equation changed, the Lakers became much more about winning now, and that did not happen this season for a variety of reasons, only a few of which should be on Walton. Still, Walton was going to lose his job and everyone knew it. Walton included.

Steve Kerr stood up for his former assistant Walton in a statement at the Warriors practice Friday.

Rumors of Sacramento’s interest in Walton were floating around NBA circles before Kings GM Vlade Divac fired their coach Dave Joerger, or before Walton had stepped away. Now with the path cleared, Divac will reach out to Walton, as multiple people have reported.

The Lakers are reportedly considering Tyronn Lue — LeBron James’ former coach in Cleveland — and Monty Williams for the job, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Both of those men would be good hires, both have a history with LeBron (Williams as an assistant coach with USA Basketball), but their hiring raises another question:

Do the Lakers want to hire a coach before hiring a new head of basketball operations? Is all of this, Walton leaving and going after a new coach, part of Pelinka trying to gain power in the organization and cement his place?

If so, it just fits in with the mess that the Lakers have been in recent years as an organization.

If you look at the most successful NBA organizations — Golden State, San Antonio, even down the Staples Center hall with the Clippers — there is a collaborative spirit in the front office and basketball operations. For example, think back to the 2015 NBA Finals, it was the idea of the “special assistant to the head coach and manager of advanced scouting” — a guy who’s primary job was cutting video to show players clips — who came up with the idea of starting Andre Iguodala and putting him on LeBron. Because of how the Warriors are open and share info, the idea made its way to Steve Kerr, he liked it and tried it, and the rest is history.

The Lakers as an organization do not function that way. People are more compartmentalized, information does not flow as freely. “Siloed” would be the business term for it. That is how Pelinka and Magic wanted it.

It’s not how the new head of basketball operations will likely want things, not if the Lakers get an elite guy (they already missed out on David Griffin).

There are some real organizational culture challenges ahead for the Lakers.

But first, apparently they are going to look for a new coach.

Lakers to sit LeBron James for remainder of NBA season

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Plenty of pundits took to the web/airwaves in recent weeks to preach this should have happened sooner, but LeBron James did not want to sit once the Lakers were eliminated from the playoffs back on March 22.

He knows fans pay to see him and he doesn’t want to disappoint. He said he wanted to compete, not rest. Plus, while he didn’t say it, he is still working to form a bond with Lakers fans, who have not embraced him as fans did in Cleveland (next to his home town of Akron) or Miami. At least not yet. Playing helped with that.

But it’s happening now, LeBron is being sat for the remainder of the season, six games.

Here’s the statement from team president Magic Johnson and general manager, Rob Pelinka.

“After consulting with our team doctors and medical staff, we have decided to hold LeBron out of games for the remainder of the season. This decision will allow his groin to fully heal, and is best for the future success of both LeBron and the Lakers.”

LeBron finishes the season having played 55 games (a career low) and averaging 27.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 8.3 assists per game. His runs of eight consecutive trips to the NBA Finals and 13 straight playoff appearances are dead.

LeBron never seemed fully recovered from the groin injury that sidelined him 17 games starting after Christmas. He had stretches of vintage LeBron, but didn’t have the same explosion or ability to lift a team up and carry it as we had seen in season’s past. He’s also 34 years old now. On top of all that were questions of how well he connected with this young team, and how he didn’t seem happy with the team’s roster construction.

The Lakers will miss the playoffs for the sixth straight season and will head into the summer with an organizational priority of finding another star to go next to LeBron.

What does this mean to the Lakers on the court for the next six games? It’s not good. The stats here are a little dated but the idea holds.

Just as a reminder, also out are Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Josh Hart.